The Great 1940’s Nylon Depression

By the 1940’s, stockings had become an essential part of a woman’s attire.

At the time, silk stockings were expensive and didn’t last, neither cotton or wool were dressy, and rayon sagged.

Nylon stockings hit the shelves of New York City on May 15, 1940. By the end of the day, nearly 780,000 pairs had been sold. By the end of 1940, 64 million pairs of nylons had been sold. Nylons had affordability, a good fit, good looks, and mass appeal.

A year later, this little problem came along called World War II and the three most common sheer stocking materials – silk, nylon, and rayon – were almost impossible to come by. Like a lot of materials, these materials were being used in the war effort.

Some women starting wearing socks folded over at the top of the ankle, but a lot of women starting applying leg makeup and would even go so far as drawing a line with an eyebrow pencil down the back of each leg to give the appearance of wearing back seam stockings. (this one gets my vote!)

It was Max Factor that actually introduced a stocking cream to give the illusion of stockings, and there were department stores that would set up a Leg Make-Up Bar.

Comments 3

  1. …ladies were sometimes quite resourceful and inventive in this endeavor.  Oh, the lengths we'll go for glamour!  My father remembers his sisters, in a pinch, using gravy browning to paint those defined seams on the back of their legs to mimic silk stockings.  I imagine the color was lovely, but I'd be a bit concerned I'd smell like Sunday's pot roast at the dinner dance, wouldn't you? 

  2. I grew up during the fully fashioned and rht era when my aunties wore 100% nylon religiously. As a young child my love of playing with my toy cars around fully fashioned feet developed into a lifetime adulation.
    The sight of painted toes encased in the filmy slick toe reinforcements and the contrast of dark and light wrinkly nylon i found totally mesmerizing and still do decades later.
    Aunty Kath caught me sniffing her nyloned soles whilst she took a nap on the couch and I will thank her forever for the way she smiled and gently….very gently, wiggled her divine red painted brown nyloned toes in my face.

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